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Class and racial conflict, intolerance, and distortions of urban form: Lessons for sustainability in the Detroit region

December 2013

Igor Vojnovic, Joe Darden


The impact of racial and class discrimination on urban form is examined. As predominately white groups seek racially homogenous environments, it leads excessive suburbanization and declining urban cores. The distance and lack of cooperation between different populations facilitates inefficient low-density development that ultimately leads to the degradation of ecological systems.

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Policy Implications

The Detroit metropolitan region’s shape today is a product of populations isolating and defending themselves to keep out unwanted groups. Future development should de-emphasize automobile use and encourage high-density mixed land uses. State and local governments can strategically guide infrastructure and investment to strengthen urban cores. The best solutions to reverse excessive suburbanization will be rooted in racially and socially just societies.

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